FORT WORTH, Texas, April 2, 2015 — Spring is finally here and with it the Jewish observance of Passover and the Christian observance of Holy Week, which ends with the dawn of Easter Sunday. Both observances illustrate and celebrate God’s unwavering love and His steadfast devotion. To honor these celebrations I want to share the story of Corrie ten Boom and her family, who lived their unshakable faith in Him and lived it no matter what the cost.
It started in 1844. Willem ten Boom was a clockmaker in Haarlem, Holland, and a member of the Dutch Reformed Church. Already a proponent to improve Judeo-Christian relations, he was inspired to found a weekly group whose sole purpose was to pray for Jews and for the peace of Jerusalem – an unusual idea among Christians for the time.
His son Casper, also a watchmaker, continued the prayer group with his own family. He and his wife Cornelia had four children: Betsie, Willem, Nollie and Corrie.
Casper moved his young family to the clock shop in the early 1890s. Friends, family, love and laughter filled the apartment above the store. Known for their generosity and compassion, the ten Booms always opened their door to those in need.
Then in May 1940 the destruction of Rotterdam led to the surrender of Dutch forces to the Nazis. The ten Booms witnessed the harassment and indignities against their Jewish neighbors and were appalled. Members of the Dutch Reformed Church protested the persecution, for they believed the injustice was an affront to divine authority.
Soon Jews had to wear the yellow star that made them easy prey. Casper ten Boom — 80 years old now — insisted on wearing one too. He said that, if everyone wore a star, then the Nazis wouldn’t know who was Jewish and who was not.
The family fought back through the Dutch Resistance. They also began to hide Jews, slave labor camp escapees and members of the Underground. When told his actions could cost him his life, Casper answered simply, ““It would be an honor to give my life for God’s chosen people.”
To start, they built a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom and included a closet. It had a trap door where the refugees could enter the tiny eight foot by two foot space. The construction was so good that Corrie could hardly tell the difference.
Guests didn’t have to stay in the cramped quarters all the time. But if the Gestapo came, each person had a job to do. They held practice drills regularly in an effort to cut down on the time it took to get the refugees to safety and the apartment to appear as if all was normal.
Middle-aged now, Corrie was the ringleader of the Haarlem Underground. With the generous help of others she had a steady supply of food ration cards and a hard-working team that believed in their mission. Resistance fighters, young men and at least 800 Jews escaped certain slavery, torture and death because these brave souls did what was right even if it cost their lives.
In spite of the darkness that blanketed Holland, faith, love and laughter continued in the ten Boom household. Jews and Christians became one family of faith that gathered to study, talk, sing and encourage each other. They worshiped in mutual love and respect that became a light.
Some Dutch citizens, collaborators, sided with the Nazis. They were enticed by secure jobs, extra food rations and assurance of safety for their families. This was a thorn in the side of the ten Booms because it was hard to tell who could be trusted and who could not.
That’s what tripped them up; a collaborator found out their secret. On Feb. 28, 1944, the Gestapo paid a visit to the happy home above the clock shop and arrested the entire household, including 84-year-old Casper.
Four Jews and two Underground members made it to the hiding place and waited. The room had air vents to provide fresh air, and there was a pot in the corner for waste.
One of several web sites dedicated to Corrie, corrietenboom.com, says this:
“Although the house remained under guard, the Resistance was able to liberate the refugees 47 hours later. The six people had managed to stay quiet in their cramped, dark hiding place for all that time, even though they had no water and very little food.”
Though tortured, not one of the ten Booms gave up their refugees. Dutch Underground materials and extra ration cards found in their home meant imprisonment at a concentration camp.
While dragging the old man from his home during the arrest, a German officer told the elder ten Boom that he could die in his own bed if he promised to behave himself. Casper ten Boom stood tall, looked him square in the eye and replied,
“I will [always] open my door to anyone who knocks for help.”
Join me for the next part of the story. Find out about how Corrie and Betsie fared as prisoners and how the terrifying darkness they endured served as a stepping stone to light.